Five unions and five contractors’ associations sent representatives to a ceremony expanding the North Carolina Drug Free Workplace Alliance. The participation demonstrates the costs of drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace and the need for a cooperative effort to deal with it.
Contractors included the Associated General Contractors, the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, the National Asphalt Pavement Association, NEA – The Association of Union Constructors, and the Specialized Carriers and Rigging Association.
Unions on hand were the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Asbestos Workers, the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada, the International Union of Operating Engineers, the Laborers’ International Union of North America, and the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades.
Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao attended the signing ceremony to demonstrate her commitment to working with both unions and contractors’ associations on the issue of the safety and health of workers.
The alliance was originally created by the U.S. Labor Department in 2004, the Department’s first push to develop cooperation in order to curb drug and alcohol abuse and improve the safety of workers, particularly in the construction and mining industries. It offers information about developing drug free workplace programs. Workforce development professionals are helped through the alliance in assisting workers with alcohol and drug use and abuse problems.
“Only by addressing drug and alcohol abuse among the entire workforce – those currently employed and those preparing to enter employment – can a drug-free American workforce be achieved,” said a spokesperson for the Labor Department.
Drug and alcohol abuse has workplace costs – some obvious and some not. The costs include accidents, errors, and absenteeism, as well as the less obvious low worker morale and increased rates of illness.
Employers can educate workers about the dangers of drug and alcohol use, and can urge employees with problems to get help. Companies in the alliance also use random drug testing and the screening of applicants.
If you’re a worker with a disability, you may wonder how something as abstract as the alliance of a public-sector agency and a private-sector organization can be relevant to your working life.
But as remote from your concerns as the ODEP/SHRM partnership may sound, it actually has potential for some concrete changes in your life.
North Carolina workers with disabilities should actually see more jobs coming their way as a result of the alliance. Look for more recruiting and hiring in the future. Expect more training, technical help, and education, as well as more communication about what’s available. The services already available through the North Carolina Department of Labor will still be there. But an extra portion of access and services should result.
ODEP is the Office of Disability Employment Policy. SHRM is the Society of Human Resource Managers. Together they should create a symbiotic relationship that will come down to more services for you. Because of the alliance, the federal agency will benefit from all of the valuable contact with human resources professionals. Meanwhile those professionals will reap the benefits of all of the resources of the federal government. In short, it will generally improve access to resources, promote research, create communication between public and private groups, and produce a common pool of information. The bottom line is that the underused talents of workers with disabilities will be tapped into more efficiently.
The cooperative effort formalizes a relationship that already existed between the private and public organizations, according to Roy Grizzard, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy, who noted that it is “benefiting SHRM as it serves its membership with the resources ODEP brings to the table and offering ODEP the opportunity for broader contact with human resource professionals.”
ODEP is a relatively new agency. It was created in 2001 as a breakaway from the U.S. Department of Labor, in hopes of making services for workers with disabilities more response and efficient.
SHRM was created in 1948, and now has 200,000 members of 550 chapters in more than 100 countries worldwide.
Recently, the third round of WIRED grants was announced by US Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao. WIRED is an acronym for Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development Initiative.
A North Carolina unemployment grant would be a good opportunity or workers in parts of the state that have traditionally experienced high unemployment. During the second round of WIRED grants, northern North Carolina was one of 13 regions that received funds.
WIRED grants awarded by the Department of Labor have been instrumental in reducing high unemployment in certain areas of the country. They also provide a stimulus to regional economies.
“WIRED brings together universities, businesses, community colleges, foundations and economic development organizations to help equip regional workforces with the skills needed to succeed in the 21st century worldwide economy,” said Secretary Chao. She added, “The WIRED Initiative recognizes that local economies often do not neatly conform to geographic boundaries.”
WIRED grants are highly beneficial for communities, but the grant selection process is highly competitive. Of the hundreds of applications received since February 2006, only 13 grants were awarded during the first round.
Each governor received a letter from the Secretary of Labor announcing the competition for the third round of WIRED grants. Each state or territory governor can submit up to two proposals for grants up to $5 million each. Grant proposals must identify private, state or regional sources of funding in addition to the federal grant monies.
The current rate of unemployment in the country is around 4%. When the unemployment rate is below 5%, most economists consider that there is a labor shortage. Despite the generally rosy employment picture, there are a few areas scattered around the country that have higher unemployment rates. WIRED grants are just one of the federal government’s programs to increase employment in these areas, and stimulate the local economy.
Last week’s deadly storms in Kansas just prove that you can’t prepare too much for an emergency.
North Carolina worker safety is always a concern when spring storms bring the threat of power outages. Businesses should plan, not only to protect their workers but also their property in case of a spring power outage.
Businesses should take care when using fuel heaters in unventilated work areas. Proper ventilation is vital, and for this reason, employers should always have wood-burning stoves and fireplaces inspected following installation. Employers should remind workers that items such as open ovens, gas ranges, propane heaters, and charcoal grills should never be used to heat an indoor area. These items aren’t intended for indoor heating and can be unsafe.
What specific things should business owners do?
Business owners should always ensure that proper ventilation is maintained within the building. For instance, use caution if fuel heaters are utilized in spaces that aren’t properly ventilated. Only use wood-burning stoves and fireplaces if they have been properly installed and inspected. Never use heating items such as open stoves, gas ranges, charcoal grills, or propane heaters to heat an indoor space. These items can be hazardous.
Have generators installed by a licensed electrician. A licensed electrician can ensure safety procedures are followed when the generator is hooked up. For instance, it is vital that the generator not create a situation where a utility worker can be electrocuted by a back feed of electricity through the normal distribution wiring. A licensed electrician can prevent this hazard by properly installing the generator.
What about using heating devices that require forced-air circulation?
Using a heating device, such as a stove, without proper ventilation can cause heat to build up. This heat buildup poses a fire hazard. If a stove requires forced-air circulation to be operated safely, businesses should not use this device when the air circulation cannot occur. Not only can a buildup of heat occur, but workers also can face the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning.
To protect workers, OSHA recently issued a chainsaw warning so employers were aware of problems with design.
A recent North Carolina OSHA Alert details recall information about two popular brands of chainsaws. When these chainsaws are used heavily, the front plastic handle can break. If this happens, workers may find the chainsaws hard to control, and as a result, they run the risk of severe cuts and injuries.
The manufacturer recall affects two brands of chainsaws that are used in many industries, including construction, landscaping, and lumbering. OSHA wants employers to know that the recall is for four Troy-Bilt chainsaws that have two-cycle gasoline engines and range from 46cc to 55cc. These chainsaws have cutting blades that are either 18-inches or 20-inches long. Craftsman has recalled the “Incredi-Pull” model, which is a two-cycle gasoline powered chainsaw with a 55cc engine and an 18-inch blade.
In this case, the recalled chainsaws are four models produced by Troy-Bilt. These chainsaws have gasoline-powered, two-cycle engines from 46cc to 55cc. The chainsaws have cutting blades measuring either 18 inches or 20 inches. The recalled Craftsman chainsaw is the “Incredi-Pull” model. This chainsaw has a gasoline-powered, two-cycle engine that is 55cc. The blade is 18 inches long.
Reports of injuries have been made to OSHA concerning these models. These reports include workers receiving severe lacerations, sprains, burns, and bruises when the handle breaks and the chainsaws become difficult to control. Employers should contact the manufacturer of their chainsaw or OSHA for safety kits containing replacement handles and installation instructions.
The recalled chainsaws have caused injuries, and reports of problems have been made to OSHA. Among the injuries reported, workers have been severely cut, bruised, and burned by the chainsaws once they became difficult to control. If the chainsaws are used before they are properly fixed, injuries and even death can result.